By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
RCS Computer Experience customers will soon encounter a store that is much more than just a PC retailer.
The single midtown Manhattan store, located at Madison Ave. and 56th St., is about to undergo a total renovation and expansion that will convert it from a high-end PC retailer into a store offering a variety of consumer electronics. When completed, the transformation will boost the store’s total floor space to 20,000 square feet, from 5,000 square feet, allowing it to add a myriad of new categories, including home theater, mobile electronics and additional high tech gadgets, said Charles Tebele, RCS’ CEO and president.
“We will be like a 365-day-a-year trade show. Just like at CES, every vendor here will have its best foot forward on the floor,” Tebele said.
The entire renewal effort is intended to give the customer a visual and hands-on experience. RCS’ current merchandising scheme gives individual vendors three or four shelves of space capable of displaying anywhere from six to a dozen products, depending on size. The new format will be vendor-driven in the same way, but the added room will allow Tebele to triple the store’s SKU count by adding 30 new categories. The extra space will require the number of sales associates to be doubled.
Tebele expects construction to get under way shortly and be completed by Nov. 1. This was RCS’ second location and has been in operation for 10 years. The original facility was located about 15 blocks further south in Manhattan, but was closed several years ago.
The most visible change will be the addition of a second level to the store. RCS took over a tract of offices several months ago that are now used as warehouse space. The blueprints have this area being converted into a selling floor for larger products, such as home theater, home audio, flat-panel televisions and desktop computers.
This section will be accessed via an escalator from the main floor showroom. Next to the escalator will be a decorative, mirrored tower that will contain flat-panel televisions, so it can double as a display center.
The main level will showcase portable products such as notebooks, PDAs and other handheld items. In addition there will be a separate department displaying what Tebele described as cool gadgets.
Having its business-oriented products front and center is critical for the store, as its primary customer base are business people drawn from the dozens of large office towers in the neighborhood and road warriors in town on business. Tebele said these people demand not only a high-level of service from his commissioned sales force, but want access to the latest technology.
They have a need that has to be quickly resolved and that is what they are interested in. They are not worried about price, he said.
Because RCS deals mainly with this affluent demographic, Tebele intends to stock few entry-level products. Instead the store will focus on the latest and greatest. This is where the “cool gadgets” department will come into play.
“Here we will show the newest technology, and we will have a department to showcase products from Asia that are not yet available in the U.S.,” he said.
The basement will house the service department and accessories, while the warehouse operation will be shifted to a new facility the company acquired that is located across the street. Purchased products will be moved from the warehouse to the check-out area to be picked up by the customer.
The physical changes to the store will not greatly impact the PC vendor mix. However, RCS will add several high-end CE makers, although Tebele declined to say which brands would be brought on.
The addition of audio, home theater and car electronics is expected to somewhat alter the RCS customer base. The vast majority of sales are now business related; for example, 85 percent of all computers sold are notebooks. But by offering more home-oriented products, Tebele expects to attract the residents from Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
“We are the first major computer, electronics retailer they hit going downtown,” he said, adding that a Sony Style store is now located just across Madison Ave., but it tends to draw more gawkers than serious shoppers.
RCS’ upcoming car electronics selection will focus more on car video and GPS than standard audio products. The store itself will not handle the installation, but it has relationships with several places that can handle that aspect of the sale, Tebele said.
Despite this ambitious plan, RCS does not intend to expand beyond this single store.
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